By Lisbeth Latham.
Denmark’s Red-Green Alliance or Enhedslisten (United List) announced on July 14 that the governing Social Democrats and Social Liberals parties in Denmark’s Parliament had agreed to pass consent-based rape laws. This follows an agreement to support the new laws made by the Conservatives and Liberal parties in March. The announcement marks a significant and further step in shifting Scandinavian rape laws away from being based on violence and coercion and towards questions of consent.
As the Red Green Alliance statement said: “sex without consent isn’t sex”.
The Red Green Alliance had unsuccessfully sought to change Denmark’s legislation in November 2018, when the then governing Conservatives, Liberals and Liberal Alliance parties had refused to back the change supported by all of Denmark’s left and centre-left parties. The changes will define sex without explicit consent as rape. In doing so Denmark becomes just the 10th EU country to pass such legislation, and the second Scandinavian country to do so after Sweden introduced similar laws in 2018.
The Local pointed out on March 12 that the new laws would shift the burden of proof onto alleged perpetrators to demonstrate that consent had been given and that the survivor was in a state to give consent. At present, survivors are required to demonstrate that the accused is proved to have had sex with somebody who tried to, or was unable to, stop the act.
The changes are expected to significantly lift the potential for rape convictions and make complaint processes easier for survivors.
While changing the legal framework regarding is important in challenging sexual violence it’s insufficient and much work still needs to be done around attitudes towards sexual activity which see access to another person’s body as a right.
Lisbeth Latham is a contributing editor of Irish Broad Left. The poster text above reads “A victory for Unity List Consent-based rape legislation – A step in the right direction”